Dr Andrzej Żak won Falling Walls Lab!
The winner of this year’s Falling Walls Lab is Dr. Andrzej Żak (Wroclaw University of Science and Technology) with the project:”Breaking the wall of photodynamic therapy”. Congratulations!
Photodynamic therapy is an experimental treatment for resistant infections. However, researchers to this day do not know the exact therapy mechanism, which inhibits the development of treatment. The author significantly modified the specialized transmission electron microscope to observe the effects of treating bacteria with light during the live experiment on the nanoscale and described it.
The project combines biology, medicine, and engineering, and its essence is to build new device for observing previously not visualised and unknown bacteria-light interaction phenomena.
“Falling Walls” is a clear reference to the Berlin Wall, which had to be torn down to unite Germany. In reference to that historic event, every November Berlin looks for young people who have an extraordinary, revolutionary idea. An idea that could change the fate of the world or humanity. Apart from thousands of euros in financial prizes, there are also scientific workshops to be won and, above all, the chance to appear in front of international business angels. It is them – as it has turned out many times in the past – who take on the financing of an idea. Often a dozen or even several dozen ideas are financed – because in the opinion of investors, not only the winners are worth supporting, but also among the finalists there are inventions or concepts worth implementing.
The rules are simple and difficult at the same time. You have three minutes to present your idea in English. No more than three minutes. As much as three minutes.
First the regional preliminaries, then the final in Berlin. The preliminaries for Central and Eastern Europe are organised in Wrocław at the University of Wrocław. There is not much time left to apply – the organisers of the Wrocław preliminaries are waiting for applications until the 15th of September.
“The preliminaries are organised at the University of Wrocław, although this is a competition for young people from all over Poland and even from neighbouring countries. It’s about connecting researchers, pioneering innovators with investors, people who will give money to make these ideas come true,” says David Blaschke, a physicist from the University of Wrocław, the organiser of the regional preliminaries.
Moreover, you don’t even have to be a scientist or a student. What matters is an original idea and the ability to present it in a clear way in English in front of an international jury – first in Wrocław, and the best ones later in Berlin. In Wroclaw, the ideas will be judged by Polish scientists – in Berlin by international businessmen, researchers and Nobel Prize winners.
“I represented Central and Eastern Europe in 2017. This is an extraordinary experience, but also an opportunity. I didn’t win, but I met people with whom I am in contact, with whom we cooperate. For example, I met William Phillips, a Nobel Prize winner in physics for developing methods to cool and trap atoms with lasers. I feel that even if my idea didn’t break down walls, it broke down walls for me. If I want to, I can and do cooperate with people from all over the world,” says Dr Jakub Jankowski, a physics theoretician from the University of Wrocław.
Blaschke adds that in fact many years of research on the fate of the programme participants show that the final workshop in Berlin is a bit like an auction of great ideas and concepts:
“Today in the world of science and business there is one common value – the talent for innovation. No wonder that the biggest companies in the world send their headhunters to the Falling Walls Lab in order to find the most talented and inventive people. Even if it is not to implement their idea – it is to attract them to work for them. But it often happens that companies decide to implement the proposed ideas. It is not uncommon for the presented ideas to be followed by investments of millions of euro.”